Title: Dream Things True
Author: Marie Marquardt
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
Interest: Contemp / Diversity / Retelling
Source: e-ARC provided by the publisher
Summary (From Goodreads):
A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.
Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much — except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There’s too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.
I really enjoy teaching Romeo & Juliet, so when Dream Things True was pitched as a modern retelling of the famous tragedy I knew I had to read it. Evan and Alma are certainly star-crossed lovers considering Evan comes from a wealthy family and Alma is and comes from an undocumented Mexican family. Alma’s story really captured my attention since I haven’t read many (any?) YA novels focusing on undocumented citizens.
Marie Marquardt brings to light an issue that many of us are aware of, but may not truly know how it affects people. Alma’s family is close-knit and loyal to one another; they look out for one another, even their families still in Mexico. Through Alma readers are able to see what life as an undocumented citizen is like. Marie Marquardt never makes this feel like an issue book, but the tension between politicians, American citizens, and undocumented citizens is evident. I’m looking forward to discussing this with my students as they read Dream Things True, especially since it’s not a topic we typically discuss in class.
The story of Alma, her family, Evan, and his family is a balanced one, but there’s an additional storyline added that deals with date rape. Honestly, I know why it’s included because it’s a good way to make a certain character more antagonistic, but it distracted me from the story. It felt excessive to me. I would have been completely find continuing to read Alma and Evan’s story without it or with a different storyline to layer the conflict.
Other than that issue I enjoyed Dream Things True. I liked making connections to Romeo & Juliet and wondering as I read which scenes and characters my students would recognize. I also appreciate that readers can read this book and not connect it in any way to Shakespeare’s famous tragedy; nothing is lost if a reader isn’t familiar with the story.